I just read an article about Catholicism that with only a few changes could apply to Judaism. Everyday we read about people disillusioned with the financial, moral, and political scandals in the community. There are not many great rabbis that are not involved in scandals. Almost (not all) any Orthodox rabbi of authority has web pages dedicated to his scandals. Even though the defenders will argue otherwise, the rabbinate is more associated with misuse of power than role models of Torah lives. Many have been turned off by fundamentalist interpretations of the Torah. Yet, greater cultural engagement – history, philosophy, social science- wont bring people back. Vague mottos for modern Orthodoxy that do not require actual aspiration will not help. We need a real sense of before and after. We are proud of the materialism and careerism of Centrism without discussing the cultural trade offs. At best, there is moralism about a specific fetishized practices, but no core drive for values. This article thinks that only a new set of saints will help. New zaddikim are needed to enliven people and to show value. People I know have wanted a new mussar movement for a long time- maybe that can help. But real mussar is foreign. The early Hasidic Rebbes helped revive Ukrainian Jewry from its community decadence only to have their grandchildren be caught themselves in the morase. Telling Hasidic Torah wearing a bekeshe wont save us from moral decadence and misuse of funds, power, and authority.
What would a Jewish saint of the 21st century look like? What moral problems would be addressed? What virtues would be preached? What sort of saint could, or would, be followed in suburbia?
Only the Saints Can Save Us– J. Peter Nixon is an award-winning Catholic writer whose work has appeared in America, Commonweal, U.S. Catholic, and elsewhere
As Ross Douthat noted in a recent essay in the Atlantic, this was the year when the clerical sexual abuse crisis truly became global, reaching even into the Vatican itself. Douthat observed that “for millions in Europe and America, Catholicism is probably permanently associated with sexual scandal, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Most of the solutions offered are unlikely to have much of an impact. The liberal path of greater rapprochement between Church and culture has not proven successful for those denominations that have tried it. But an embittered and joyless defense of orthodoxy — the kind on display in far too many quarters of the Catholic internet — repels far more people than it attracts.
Our children and grandchildren are abandoning the faith because they perceive — rightly — that its demands are at fundamental variance with the lives we have prepared them to lead. We have raised them to seek lives characterized by material comfort, sexual fulfillment, and freedom from any obligations that they have not personally chosen. Should it surprise us that they fail to take seriously our claims to follow one who embraced poverty, chastity, and obedience to the will of God?
A revival of the Church in our time will require believers who are willing to take risks on behalf of the Gospel. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Cardinal Law, rather than retiring to his sinecure in Rome, had instead made a penitential journey to Haiti and lived out his days in a hospital cleaning toilets and picking maggots from the wounds of street people. Some might have seen such a penance as inadequate to the offense, but it could not have been dismissed as an empty gesture.
The future of the Church is not in the hands of its leaders, whose exhortations seem increasingly to fall on deaf ears… In the end, it is only the saints who can save us.